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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Make sure dogs have access to water.

 

Ask "barkers" to sit, then take them out to rule out the need to eliminate.

 

Identify "lead barkers" and isolate them, if possible. 

Provide dogs with something to do such as food puzzles or kongs stuffed with frozen dog food. 

 

Have an authorization on file to give mild sedation, as a last result to comfort and calm the excessive barking.

Gentle Leaders are helpful to correct excessive barking.


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How to Prevent and Respond to Excessive Barking

Introduction

Barking is a normal and natural means of canine communication. However, when barking becomes excessive it can become a source of frustration to families and neighbors. How much your dog barks falls under establishing your house rules.

Barking may be desirable when the dog is guarding the home or warning strangers at the door. The most important principle in preventing excessive barking is to interrupt any non-approved barking episodes before they become extended.

Consider a 5-Bark Rule:  Up to 5 barks is okay and then it must be interrupted.  Prevent excess barking from becoming a bad habit.

Unintentional reinforcement of excess barking
  • Be careful not to accidentally reinforce unwanted barking.
     
  • Do NOT attempt to stop barking or calm the dog by providing a bone, toy, food treat, or with your attention. 
     
  • Do not pet the dog while the dog is still barking.
     
  • Do NOT let the dog in the house or release from any other isolation or confinement in response to barking.
     
  • Provide distractions before the barking begins or as a reward for the dog being quiet on your request. 
     
  • Make sure the dog is quiet - even for two seconds - before getting any rewards. 
     
  • As time goes on, expect more and more seconds, then minutes of quiet before the reward.  It can also happen when a dog is released from confinement after barking. Be aware if there are other things you may be doing to unintentionally reinforce the barking you wish to stop.

Teaching the "quiet" Instruction

Dogs should be trained to stop barking after being asked to be, "quiet."  To teach the dog the word, "quiet" begin to praise the dog when he or she is quiet right before a situation that usually triggers barking.


Step One
- After you are sure the dog does not need to eliminate, give a stern "Quiet", then praise for being quiet.

Step Two
- If step one is not effective, or if the whining is repeated later, apply a head collar.  

Step Three - Using a head collar, like the Gentle Leader, attach a long leash. Give a tug on the end of the leash immediately when the dog begins to make a noise. Wait 3 seconds. Praise the dog for being quiet. If the whining continues, follow the time intervals given above. If the dog is in a kennel, and you have not been successful interrupting the vocalization, try a rap on top of the kennel just to startle the dog so that the barking is interrupted, then praise quiet.

 
Step Four - Move kennel or tether the dog in different parts of the house. Provide a chew to give your dog a good alternative to barking.

If none of these four steps are working, consider a Pet Behavior History Analysis. You and your dog need professional help. Something isn't right. Get lab work to rule out early diabetes or renal disease. If the dog is healthy, then you may want to remove food and water earlier in the evening, and increase the reward for late (just before bed) elimination.

Teaching this human vocabulary word takes effort. Just like toilet training a toddler, you need to be consistent.

Do not allow excessive barking. Barking is a stress release and
easily becomes a habit. It is important when teaching the dog to be quiet and for any other training that the dog is walked at least once daily for at least 20 minutes and preferably longer. 

At home, when the dog begins barking, go to where the dog is, move in front of the dog so you take over the leader position, and determine why the dog is barking. See if there is a stranger outside of the house or not. If your dog is barking at neighbors across the street or a neighbor dog or cat, then relax YOUR body (as a calming signal). Then, face the dog, and say in a very relaxed voice, it's nothing, be "quiet." 

During this training time, it can be helpful to have the dog wearing a head collar and dragging a leash indoors. Do not grab the dog by the collar. Use the leash-collar combination to gently pull the dog's mouth closed as you give the quiet Instruction.

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